Eye floaters: Do they indicate a serious problem?

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Eye floaters: Do they indicate a serious problem?

Question

I have persistent eye floaters in my right eye that seem to be getting worse. Should I be concerned?

No name given
Minnesota

Answer

Most of the interior of your eye is filled with vitreous, a clear, jelly-like substance. Eye floaters are small bits of debris floating in the vitreous. They may appear as spots, hair or bits of string that dart into your field of vision. Although they can be bothersome, eye floaters in your eye are usually not a serious problem and don't require treatment. Most people learn to ignore them.

Rarely, the density and location of eye floaters affect central vision and even interfere with reading. In such cases, a doctor may recommend surgical removal of the floating debris (vitrectomy). However, this surgery also carries risks and may not remove all floaters.

Eye floaters are most common in older adults due to age-related changes to the vitreous. Eye floaters usually appear gradually over time and are harmless. However, see your ophthalmologist if you notice a sudden onset or increase in floaters, especially if associated with flashing lights or hazy vision. This could be a sign of a potentially serious eye disorder, such as a retinal tear or retinal detachment.

Eye floaters

Illustration of eye floaters

Floaters are small bits of debris floating in the vitreous. They can look like small bits of string or hair before your eye. What you're seeing is the shadow that this material casts on your retina.

Last Updated: 08/15/2006
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